The only thing better than eating artisan chocolate, is eating it while listening to the person that made it. That's exactly what I got to do Wednesday when Michael Recchiuti, San Francisco's preeminent chocolatier, hosted a media-only event to announce The Taste Project.
The Taste Project is a series of multi-sensory chocolate pairings bringing together Recchiuti's confections with savory ingredients like salt, olive oil, beer, mushrooms, along with the people that produce them.
While listening to Michael explain his concept, it was clear how much he enjoys bringing together these kindred foodie souls. More than pairing products, he's pairing people, and that's what promises to makes these tastings unique.
The evening began with a brief tour of his kitchen. A large, bubbling kettle of candied citrus peel was steaming away, scenting the entire floor of the building. Against another wall, molten white chocolate poured from a spigot into a churning vat.
He showed us how the chocolates are coated and the intricate designs applied to the top. He also gracefully handled the inevitable "Oompa-Loompa," and "I Love Lucy" jokes (I'm sure he never gets tired of those).
Then it was on to the main event. You can see pictured here, in order, what we had to taste and savor while Michael explained each paring and the thought-process behind it.
We started with a "Dip-it-yourself" Graham cracker breadstick. A custom-blended 64% Valrhona chocolate was slowly melting on a warm block of Himalayan salt, just begging for one of those housemade Graham-sticks to be dragged through. Now that's how you start a chocolate tasting.
Next we were served the "Salt Course;" a stone fruit pizza made with peaches, cherries, and some of the best puff pastry I've ever had. This was garnished with something called roasted Korean bamboo salt. Over the top were shaved curls of a wonderful, custom-blended Mexican/Colombian chocolate.
Eating this in silence would have been pleasurable enough, but as I said at the beginning, to taste while Michael discussed the components of the plate took it to another level of enjoyment.
The "Spirits Course" was a tiny "cherry bomb" made with Kirsch-filled chocolates topped with a coated Amarena cherry. It was a great bite, and made more so when we were informed that due to its labor-intensive nature, this item would not be available for retail sale.
The most bizarre and interesting pairing was the "Mushroom Course," consisting of shiitake mushroom ice cream sandwiched between grilled slices of buttery brioche bread, topped with fried slices of shiitake. I have no idea how, but it worked. More so than anything else we had, this item best represented the mission behind The Taste Project.
We finished with the "Bread Course;" an Acme croissant soaked in rum custard, sitting next to a very light crème caramel. It came with a small vial of Stonehouse olive oil for drizzling over the bread pudding. The bitterness of the early harvest oil brought everything together and made for a very nice finish.
On our way out we were presented with a pint of Recchiuti's new "underground" ice cream. For fear of grave bodily harm, I really can’t give details about his mysterious new offering, but a very reliable source told me that if you check Michael's Facebook page you can learn how to get your hands on some.
If you would like to take part in any of the upcoming Taste Project events you can get more info and see a complete schedule of pairings on the Recchiuti Confections website. Enjoy!
A Look Behind the Scenes at Recchiuti Confections
Top Photo courtesy of recchiuti.com